Sunday, 25 August 2013

Cold cases solved by magic? — J. Warner Wallace's Cold Case Christianity

I got the Kindle version of this book for free a few months ago. It's divided broadly into two sections, the first dealing with the techniques of criminal detection, with specific reference to "cold cases" — unsolved crimes (usually murders) where the original witnesses are no longer available, although there is documentary evidence of what they said during the original investigation. Wallace draws parallels between these cold cases and the claims of Christianity where, likewise, the original witnesses to the life of Jesus are no longer available, although there is documentary evidence of what they saw and heard. This is fine as far as it goes, but there is a glaring mismatch in the kind of evidence we should be looking for. Murders are commonplace; resurrections are not. So although being convinced "beyond reasonable doubt" ought to be as sufficient to draw an inference regarding a resurrection as it is regarding a murder, the real question is what counts as "reasonable" in either scenario. The kind of evidence it is reasonable to expect for an event as extraordinary as a resurrection, is a different order of extraordinariness from that for a commonplace murder. From that perspective it appears Wallace is presenting a false equivalence.

It seems sensible enough, however, to use skills honed in the investigation of cold cases and apply them to the historicity of the New Testament, even if the subjects of investigation are not directly equivalent. But there's a nagging doubt that irked me throughout Wallace's anecdotes about cases he's worked: he appears certain that his techniques always produced a correct result — that he always got his man. I can recall no anecdotes in the book about cases where the defence was successful — where the accused was found not guilty. Presumably such cases exist (unless Wallace's skills are 100 per cent "successful"); it would have been interesting to read Wallace's interpretation of why he failed to secure a conviction. Perhaps he would say that the jury got it wrong. This is an important consideration, given that at the beginning of the book he makes much of the investigator's presuppositions and how they can influence the interpretation of evidence.

The presupposition Wallace seems most concerned about when considering evidence for the historicity of Jesus is the skeptic's alleged presupposition against supernaturalism. This concern is often expressed by religious apologists, and one can understand why, but here it appears a bit incongruous. Did Wallace have a presupposition against supernaturalism when working his cold case murders? If not, I'd like to know how he would deal with supernatural claims in witness statements. It's possible — even probable — that no witnesses ever made supernatural claims, so perhaps the question would not have arisen.

There's a reason such a question is likely not to have arisen, and that's because we do not see credible supernatural occurrences in the modern age. Ancient literature may report magical occurrences as if they are all in a day's work. These days, however, not so much. The vast majority of reported modern miracles, when properly investigated, turn out to be not supernatural. It is therefore entirely reasonable to presuppose that supernatural events reported in ancient literature were not, in fact, supernatural.

With regard to the motivations of the apostles, martyred for their beliefs, we must consider the possibility of self-delusion and hysteria. We know from modern studies of cults (religious and otherwise) that group dynamics and psychology can make people behave in very strange ways, including changing their beliefs. This could easily result in a kind of mass delusion about what really happened after the crucifixion. And even if some accounts were written down as early as a mere five years later as Wallace suggests, that's still plenty of time for memory to play some very cruel tricks. Some skeptics contend that the disciples engaged in a conspiracy regarding the resurrection of Jesus. Wallace devotes several pages to the infeasibility of large scale conspiracies without mentioning one obvious fact: large scale conspiracies always fail, except for the successful ones. But it's the successful ones we never hear about.

The second half of the book is an examination of the New Testament text, in an effort to show that as a collection of reports of what actually happened it is reliable, despite apparent contradictions, omissions and barely credible occurrences. This is necessarily compressed, presumably to fit some deep study into a limited word-count, but the compression contributes to a certain air of desperation exhibited in this section of the book. Wallace makes much of the correlations and consistency between various copies of the original autographs, claiming that these show that we can be reasonably sure what those autographs actually said. But as far as I'm aware the copies do not state what generation they are. Even if there are thousands of early copies that say the same thing, we cannot know whether or not they all derive from a very few (now lost) first or second generation copies that all contained the same errors or distortions.

J. Warner Wallace was the guest on Unbelievable? yesterday, answering questions from two skeptics. Having made a special effort to finish the book before listening to the programme, I didn't really gain anything extra from hearing the author précis his case, so the programme was a bit disappointing. I remain skeptical of the claims of the New Testament, and continue my presupposition against supernaturalism.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Burnee links for Thursday

'Persecuted' British Christians need to 'grow up', says former Archbishop Rowan Williams - Telegraph
Rowan Williams pooh-poohs "persecution".

Beyond Dawkins | Rationalist Association
Daniel Trilling is taking over editorship of New Humanist magazine in September, and here he sets out his stall. NH, during the few years I've been a subscriber, has appeared unafraid of publishing articles that are potentially counter to the views of its core readership. I hope that continues. (But what's happening to Caspar Melville?)

Do Not Link allows you to ethically criticize bad content | Skeptical Software Tools
Useful article from Tim Farley concerning how to link to bad content in social media or other sites that don't honour the NOFOLLOW HTML tag.

National Secular Society - Secularism for beginners
Excellent article. Bookmark it and send it to every religionist who insists on talking about "militant secularists".

Sorry Apologetics: an essay wherein I use lots of big words | godless in dixie
A good article that includes a concise explanation of presuppositional apologetics (aka BS).

Richard Dawkins attacks Muslim bigots, not just Christian ones. If only his enemies were as brave » The Spectator
About time. And in the Spectator. Nick Cohen says what all those loud and angry militant atheists have been too shy point out.

Dawkins gets a break at last « Why Evolution Is True
Jerry Coyne picks up on Nick Cohen's Spectator article.

Michael Shermer: Rapist or Sleaze? (Unless Box Checked for Other) » Richard Carrier Blogs
Good to read a rigorous analysis of what might have happened, and why it matters.

What do you do when someone pulls the pin and hands you a grenade? » Pharyngula
PZ presents the evidence Richard Carrier writes about in the previous link. Apparently Michael Shermer's lawyers have since issued PZ with a "cease and desist" letter.

Absolutely misguided: theism's mental block

That Facebook thread mentioned in my previous post has been growing, but it's become clear to me that the author of the Original Post has some serious misunderstandings about atheism, materialism and naturalism. In this she's far from unique, and since the mental block she's exhibiting is one that other theists apparently share I thought I'd jot down some explanatory notes about such notions that I can refer to if (when!) such brain-jams come up in future.

The first, exemplified in the OP referred to above, is the notion that without God everything is pointless. The theist is saying that if God does not exist there's no point to anything at all — that if human beings are "merely" matter, then they don't … matter.

This misconception is tied up with the theistic idea of absolutes and ultimates (as are most theistic misconceptions, I might add). In this case the theist maintains that there must be God-given purpose for human life to have any meaning. This idea is so ingrained into religious thinking that many theists (the OP author cited above included) cannot see beyond it. To them, the idea of a world without God is simply too alien to be entertained. Some even suggest that if God didn't exist, they would resort to crime, and care nothing for their fellows.

This scary prospect is evidence of the second, related, theistic preoccupation with absolutes — that of objective morality. Many theists claim that morality is impossible without a transcendent moral law-giver. They claim their own morals come from scripture, and that even an unbeliever's morals are based (or borrowed) from the same scripture. Faced with an atheistic insistence that morality can be derived from circumstances and consequences, theists will often ask, "But why should you care what is good or bad? What makes one action 'better' than another, if there's no ultimate objective morality?" So, absolutes again. But what makes scriptural morality — rules written in a book — any better than moral guidelines derived from careful consideration of the likely outcomes of moral decisions? The answer of course is that it isn't better, it's actually worse. Personally I'd rather be subject to a moral code derived from analyses of circumstances and consequences, than to the arbitrary moral edicts of a Christian with a crib-sheet.

It seems to me that moral philosophy, neuroscience, cosmology and indeed physics in general are moving steadily in the direction of materialism and determinism and away from outdated concepts of dualism, the soul, free will and absolutes. Yet theists cling desperately to these notions because without them their faith makes no sense at all.



This week's Jesus and Mo is apposite:
http://www.jesusandmo.net/2013/08/21/soul/

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Another theist asks why atheists don't just kill themselves

From a link shared on Facebook, a theist claims — with what appears to be token bemusement — that atheists don't act out the consequences of their atheism:

Atheists Refusing to Act Like Atheists | Hard-Core Christianity

Wrong on so many levels. Here's what I posted in the thread:
The blogpost linked in the OP is yet another example of a theist telling atheists what they believe.

Be that as it may, it is true that life has no ultimate meaning. But life has meaning _now_, because we are here living it. Theists seem to be obsessed with the idea of absolutes and ultimates, as if without these things one might as well just give up, because, you know, there's no ultimate point to anything.

Some people collect stamps — why do they do that? It's unlikely they do it because each stamp is worth a brownie point in heaven. More likely they do it because it's interesting, or it enables them to cultivate relationships with other stamp collectors, or maybe a good collection built up over years is worth money, or any number of perfectly valid other reasons, singly or in combination. They don't do it because some scripture says "Thou shalt collect adhesive postage tokens."

There's no ultimate meaning to life, the universe and everything — the purpose of life is life itself.
It's ongoing, so check out the thread itself for more.


Monday, 19 August 2013

I have a cunning plot, but I don't yet know what it is

Today someone tweeted me to the effect that they had just finished listening to my podcast novel for the second time, and how was the sequel coming along....

I replied that the sequel had been started but progress was slow, due to the fact that I'd been doing other things. I assured them, however, that the sequel would be forthcoming. And I really meant it, despite not having touched the draft for several years. Every so often I get a query about the sequel, and I generally reply in the same vein, though each query fills me with guilt for withholding stuff from my listener/readership. This time the request spurred me to read what I'd got so far, and it turns out I really want to know what happens to the characters in the story.

There is only one way to find out, so I'll have to schedule some regular, major time to continue with the first draft.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Burnee links for Tuesday

Not in our name: Dawkins dresses up bigotry as non-belief - he cannot be left to represent atheists - Comment - Voices - The Independent
Fire
Yet another in a lengthening list of anti-Dawkins pieces by atheists who want the "atheist community" to disown the notorious militant baby-eating atheist deathlord. Currently it's his (possibly ill-considered) 140-characters-or-less utterings on Twitter that are causing some of his erstwhile supporters exasperated sighs mixed with genuine puzzlement. (Personally I think there should be an alternative to Twitter, devoted solely to spleen-venting and invective. Maybe it should be called Splutter.) Dawkins is to a large extent a product of his background and upbringing, which by certain accounts included a modicum of tradition-borne privilege. Whether that privilege has in the past insulated him from the immediate effects of less-than-critically-self-aware spontaneous pronouncements I don't know. One can but speculate, and await the inevitable fall-out.

RDFRS: Calm reflections after a storm in a teacup
Richard Dawkins explains what he meant. That's all right then.

Kids can't use computers... and this is why it should worry you - Coding 2 Learn
A blogpost after my own heart. Think about it: if you rely so much on one particular aspect of your life, should you really be so clueless about "how it works" and "how to work it"?

Don't be fooled. Pope by name, pope by nature | Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer
More of the same, then. Which ironically could be a good thing if it signals a continuing "no compromise" approach, and the Catholic Church's continuing marginalisation.

The Inspection of Steiner Schools | The Quackometer Blog
Andy Lewis makes some cutting remarks about an incident at a Steiner school, then goes on to express more general concerns about how inspection of Steiner schools is, to put it mildly, flawed.

'Unbelieving' WLC - William Lane Craig exposed by Lawrence Krauss - YouTube

It beats me why Krauss agreed to engage again with Craig, given what happened last time.

Do a good deed or three, after listening to Skepticule

Here's the latest episode of the internet's best UK-podcast-featuring-three-guys-named-Paul:

http://www.skepticule.co.uk/2013/08/skepticule-052-20130728.html


Skepticule 052 — altruistically non-cynical about desirable Jewish symbols scientifically festive for human origins. Or something.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The meaning of scripture

From a Facebook thread, concerning the mutability of scriptural interpretation:
  • Paul Jenkins You're at liberty to interpret the Bible any way you want. There's enormous scope for this: along with different translations and appeal to context, there's also the option to claim that something that is superficially nonsense is actually quite sensible and profound — if only we were party to God's ineffable intentions. It's a bit like when a novelist goofs in the plotting and gets mail from fans asking how can such-and-such be, since it appears to contradict something in the early chapters. The novelist merely replies that it does actually make sense, and all will be revealed in the sequel.
  • Ian Taylor "Mark 16:17-18 - King James Version (KJV)
    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

    18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
    Come on Paul, reinterpret this for me.
  • Ian Taylor Oh yea, "...they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.", clearly means that they'll put gramma's quilt back over her when they're done the 'laying hands' bit!
  • Paul Jenkins "Come on Paul, reinterpret this for me."

    OK, I'll have a go. But I don't know the original language, so I'll leave that aspect.

    "Mark 16:17-18 - King James Version (KJV)

    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;"

    Well, when signs _follow_, it means that these are evident later, not necessarily at the current time (which would explain why believers may not be able to do these things now). Casting out devils could mean anything, but speaking with new tongues simply means they will be inspired to great oratory.

    "18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

    Anyone may "take up serpents" — the text doesn't actually state that the serpents won't kill them. As for drinking deadly things, this will likely cause them to be poisoned to death, but it will probably be a relatively painless death (without hurt), despite the grimaces on their faces (which God probably makes them do for the sake of discouraging others from following suit).

    Laying hands on the sick is merely a symbolic gesture — the recovering refers to the multiple times they do it.

    That's just off the top of my head. With some time devoted to it I could probably twist it into something completely unrecognisable. (I shan't be doing this, by the way.)
  • Paul Jenkins "...and they shall recover.", clearly means that they'll put gramma's quilt back over her when they're done the 'laying hands' bit!"

    I think you're getting the hang of this.
  • Ian Taylor Well, we've all heard this kind of apologetics, sure, which amount to caviling. Not really the kind of thing GOD, as Jesus, would bother telling us, and not really the kind of thing a believer would believe Jesus meant to tell us.
    The Gospels really should come with a warning, you know, for the kids and the stupid, maybe even the faithful.
  • Paul Jenkins This matter of interpretation reminds me of a story I heard about a group of Plymouth Brethren who needed pews for their Meeting House. Someone alerted them to pews being salvaged from another church, but when the Brethren saw the pews they said they weren't suitable because there was the shape of a cross formed in fretwork in the back of each seat. (Plymouth Brethren eschew crosses).

    However, the Brethren were satisfied when it was explained to them that the pews did at one time have crosses carved into the backs, but they'd since been "cut out".
  • Ian Taylor how pragmatic of them.

It's ongoing, so there may be more...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Skepticule 51 is available for your listening pleasure

This is shorter than our usual podcast, but still contains plenty to ... complain about:

Bad SF; Theocratic school management; Hoax disaster rescue; Secular Promise; Rain dance killing; Muslim prayer TV call; Teenage TED cancer test; Westboro consistency;

http://www.skepticule.co.uk/2013/08/skepticule-051-20130713.html

Burnee links for Friday

Science education vs. high-profile ignorance | Ars Technica
Some say creationism in the UK isn't a problem, and that we don't need to worry about it. As for free creationist DVDs being distributed to British schools, "British school teachers are not stupid enough to uncritically accept these things." But what America has now, Britain often gets eventually. This is no time for complacency.

Science is not the Enemy of the Humanities | New Republic
Bask in Pinker's luminous prose, in defence of scientism.

Repudiating scientism, rather than surrendering to it » Pharyngula
In which PZ expresses his disappointment with Steven Pinker's essay on scientism.

100 of Britain and Ireland’s secular thinkers you should know about, who aren’t white men | The Heresy Club
This is a useful list — SitP organisers take note. (I'm reminded that all the speakers in the main hall on the final day of Winchester Science Festival were women. I'm also reminded that QED's list of speakers this year was satisfyingly diverse.)

National Secular Society - Woking Council issue 'clarification' on worshippers’ parking policy
Sounds like progress, but I'm wary. I'd like to see the criteria Woking Council are using to decide who gets free parking.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Skepticule's half century

Just a quick reminder in advance of an imminent Skepticule announcement: if you haven't yet listened to the 50th episode of Skepticule, in which the three Pauls engage in a bit of gratuitous retrospective self-congratulation, here's your chance. Catch it before it goes away! (It's not going away, but listen anyway....)

http://www.skepticule.co.uk/2013/07/skepticule-050-20130707.html


Including the regular Pearced Off, plus a bonus contribution, features and other goodies you didn't know you didn't want to miss.

Subscribe here:
http://www.skepticule.co.uk/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

Get it from iTunes here:
http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=330565544

Download the mp3 file here:
http://traffic.libsyn.com/revup/Skepticule-050-20130707.mp3

Sunday, 4 August 2013

My Kalām Krash

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The Universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore the Universe has a cause of its existence.
This is the Kalām Cosmological Argument for the existence of God — the favourite argument of William Lane Craig. It boils down to "The Universe had to be created by something, ergo, God." The KCA is also related to the argument that out of nothing, nothing comes. So let's look at the KCA a bit more (don't worry, this won't take long, and it doesn't involve any multiverses).

The current cosmological consensus is that the Universe began with the Big Bang, at which both space and time came into being. The essential part of the KCA is the notion of "cause". We know that causes always come before effects, because if cause and effect are simultaneous it's impossible to distinguish between the two. To put this another way, both the cause and the effect, if simultaneous, can be said to have come about spontaneously.

The notion of "before" is dependent on the notion of "time". At the Big Bang there was no time, therefore the common understanding of cause and effect cannot hold. Where the traditional relationship between cause and effect does not apply, the claim that effects depend on causes is no longer supportable. One cannot, therefore, rule out the possibility of the Big Bang arising from nothing, spontaneously — without a cause.

The first premise of the KCA needs to be revised:
  1. Everything that begins to exist (except the Universe) has a cause of its existence.
Fixed.


Philosophy in the pub on the radio

One of my favourite Radio 4 programmes is back for a new series. This week's episode of The Philosopher's Arms was on "Free Riders". Half an hour isn't enough time to go very deeply into a philosophical subject, so the treatment is necessarily superficial. Nevertheless, the light-hearted treatment and brisk pace is enough to whet one's appetite for more thorough study (or just studious contemplation).

BBC Radio 4 - The Philosopher's Arms

Here's a clip:



From the programme's website:

Free Riders

Series 3 Episode 1 of 4

Duration: 28 minutes
First broadcast: Tuesday 30 July 2013
Pints and philosophical puzzles with Matthew Sweet. Each week Matthew goes to the pub to discuss a knotty conundrum with an audience and a panel of experts. Free will, exploitation, sex, sexism, blame and shame are just some of the topics to be mulled over in this series of The Philosopher's Arms.
We look at the issue of 'free-riding', with Oxford philosopher Roger Crisp.
Producer: Estelle Doyle.
Here's a link to the first episode (streaming audio available for about a year):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b037hmy3

The Singularity — when did that happen?

Some people claim it's possible the Singularity has already occurred. Which would mean that the last frame of this comic is the place where we live now.

(Found this in the Naturalism Facebook group, posted by Steven Baudoin.)

Flea Snobbery: Singularity


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Fantastic (not in a good way) Unbelievable? show

What's next for Unbelievable? Raëlians? Scientologists? Moon hoaxers? 9/11 truthers?
Today on his radio programme Justin Brierley played host to a conspiracy theorist: one Andy McIntosh, a young earth creationist who seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time inventing circumstances which could somehow fit his wacky non-mainstream beliefs. His argument was an object-lesson in doing science backwards: start with a conclusion — the Earth is less than 10,000 years old — then look for evidence that could fit that conclusion. If something else contradicts that evidence, invent some additional circumstance in order to shoe-horn it into the story. Don't bother if there's no independent evidence for the additional circumstance, just declare that the evidence fits and choose the conclusion you prefer. This is Carl Sagan's "dragon in my garage" argument — it's unfalsifiable, and therefore scientifically worthless.

My sympathies were with McIntosh's sparring partner on the show, palaeontologist Robert Asher, whose aim appeared to be simply investigating the natural world. Andy McIntosh, however, was doing everything he could to make the evidence fit with a preconceived idea. At the beginning of the show McIntosh — perhaps unwittingly — disclosed the intransigent depth of his preconceptions:
"…as a person thinking into these issues as a Christian, I became aware, actually, that if the Bible's not true on the first few pages, I might as well dump it for the rest…"
So for McIntosh the Earth is young because anything else conflicts with his literal interpretation of Genesis. I'm not sure why he bothers with all that re-interpretation of scientific data when he already knows to what conclusions it will lead him.

What's amusing about "creation scientists" is the extraordinary lengths to which they will stretch the evidence in order to reconcile it with their unshakeable worldview. Young earth creationism inevitably requires the denial of so many different branches of science that its adherents end up living in a kind of alternative universe that could have been invented by Terry Pratchett. Sure, they somehow make it all fit, but in doing so they arrive at a scientific model that can only be described as speculative fantasy.

Direct link to mp3 of today's Unbelievable?:
http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/ccec9398-7132-4965-b3de-073d928861cb.mp3

Friday, 2 August 2013

Signs of desperation at C4ID

I can't remember exactly how I got on the mailing list of the Centre for Intelligent Design, but the result is I get the occasional peevish missive from its director Alastair Noble:
Dear Paul,

Teach science, not secular dogma

You may have noticed that the Education Secretary, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, announced recently that the revision of the National Curriculum will include teaching evolution in primary schools.

Now you may wonder what is wrong with that, given that the scientific establishment regards evolution as a 'fact'.  Well, there are two problems.  Firstly, every scientific theory is tentative and subject to revision as fresh evidence is uncovered.  You can be sure that the growing body of evidence against the all-pervasive theory of evolution will not be considered.
Sounds like Noble is against teaching of the theory of gravity as "fact" because it is "tentative and subject to revision as fresh evidence is uncovered."
And here's what children won't be told about evolution:
Evolution has no explanation for the origin of life in the first place.  By saying evolution doesn't deal with that, while implying it does, just highlights its deficiency.
But neither does the theory of gravity explain the origin of life. Is this a reason for not teaching children about gravity? Gravity doesn't deal with the origin of life — and as far as I'm aware no-one claims (or implies) that it does. Neither does anyone (apart from creationists) imply that evolution deals with the origin of life.
Random mutation and natural selection cannot explain the synthesis of the hundreds of complex bio-molecules, like proteins, which are necessary for life.
The mechanism of evolution - natural selection acting on random mutation - has been shown to be unequal to the task of creating new organisms[1].
May I suggest Alastair Noble peruses the Talk Origins archive? There's really no excuse for this kind of wilful ignorance.
The 'junk DNA' hypothesis, an integral part of the teaching of evolution, has now been abandoned in light of recent work on the human genome[2].
The fact that science changes its theories in the light of new evidence is one of the reasons it actually works and is a path to new knowledge.
The much-vaunted 'tree of life' is being increasingly shown to be highly speculative and at odds with the evidence[3]. The fossil record is not consistent with the numerous slight successive changes required by evolution, as Charles Darwin himself recognised[4].
I note that this reference to Darwin is footnoted not to Darwin's text but to a book by an ID proponent (as are all the references, which doesn't inspire confidence in the impartiality of Noble's sources).
Evolution is completely unable to explain the existence of the complex genetic information carried by every living cell in its DNA[5].
It's true that there are gaps in the theory, but "completely unable" is over-egging the argument, especially as ID has no alternative explanation.
Evolution has no explanation for mind and consciousness, other than that it is an accidental by-product of chemistry and physics[6].
"[A]ccidental by-product" or "emergent property" — take your pick. The alternative offered by ID proponents isn't an explanation, so I don't understand what their problem is.
Any other scientific hypothesis with such glaring deficiencies would certainly not be taught as 'fact' in schools.
Noble is spinning these imponderables as "glaring deficiencies" when they are merely the fuzzy edges of a science that is on a constant quest to elucidate and illuminate the world we live in, bringing amazing new discoveries every week. To suggest that it should not be taught in schools is tantamount to criminal intellectual negligence.
But the second problem is that, behind all this, there are now, as Prof Phillip Johnson has pointed out, two definitions of science[7].  The first is the popular definition which insists science can only deal with natural processes and, for example, cannot contemplate any explanation about origins which suggests a non-material explanation such as 'mind before matter'.  The older and more honest definition is that science goes where the evidence leads and does not rule out any possible explanation before it is given due consideration.
Science must be confined to methodological naturalism if it is to make any progress. The alternative — the invocation of some undefined, unknown, untestable causal agent — has zero explanatory power. Worse, it has nowhere else to go. It you decide to "explain" some phenomenon by saying NotGoddidit, what's the next step? What are you supposed to do in order to expand your knowledge of this "causal agent"? Pray?
It is clear then that evolution is based on the first definition.  It is essentially materialistic dogma, not science.  It persists for ideological reasons, despite the evidence.
It is clear Alastair Noble doesn't understand what science is. We should be grateful he is no longer inspecting schools.
So what is going to be taught in primary schools is the secular, humanistic, naturalistic worldview which rules out any possibility of design in nature, even before the evidence is considered.  It is, in fact, a form of secular indoctrination.
Perhaps Noble would like to state what evidence there is for "design in nature" — other than "it looks terribly complicated, and I can't imagine how it could come about by natural processes."
The scientific study of origins is unlike any other because it has to consider the possibility of deliberate design in nature.  That's why we argue that Intelligent Design should also be considered in any scientific study of origins.
Intelligent Design is not science. By all means discuss it (and its implications) in a philosophy class, but it has no place in science classes.
Interestingly, in Radio 4's Today programme on March 6th, 2004, Sir David Attenborough said, 'The problem Darwin never solved was how one inorganic molecule became a living one.  We're still struggling with that one.'  That's the kind of honesty science needs, even though it is less apparent in some of his nature programmes.  And in the film 'Expelled'[8] Richard Dawkins, in an interview with Ben Stein, validates intelligent design by admitting that the intricacies of cellular biology could lead to us to detect the existence of a 'higher intelligence' or 'designer' (his words).  So why wouldn't we explore that with students?
The reason why we shouldn't explore that with students (at least in a science class) is because science education should be about teaching established science. David Attenborough was talking about abiogensis, which is not what evolution is about, and as for Expelled — the less said about that despicable piece of trash (more or less outright lies from start to finish), the better.
It is high time we stopped indoctrinating pupils with the philosophy of naturalism dressed up as the scientific consensus.  We should do what all honest scientists do, which is to go where the evidence leads.  As has been observed, it takes years of indoctrination to miss the obvious signs of design in nature.
It's interesting that ID proponents are unable to tell us how they can tell that something is designed — other than "it looks like it" — despite their insistent claims.
If schools are not going to be allowed to explore all the dimensions of origins, then perhaps it's time parents and churches did so!  Or maybe even Free Schools! 
Churches? What happened to "we're not saying anything about the designer, nudge nudge, wink wink"?

The rest of the email is taken up with a call to arms — encouraging parents and others to write to Michael Gove and to sign up for the C4ID email newsletter. There are also the footnotes: references to pro-ID books and Noble's "32-page booklet 'An Introduction to Intelligent Design'" available for £2 (plus pp!). Is cash-flow at C4ID so strapped that Noble has to shill for a 32-page document that could easily be linked as a PDF? Perhaps we should take that as a good sign.


Burnee links from the dark recesses of a former age...

... or rather, some links I saved a long time ago and haven't yet got around to posting.

Media Guide to Skepticism | Doubtful News
Useful guide (resources slightly out-of-date).

On Psychics, Failures, and ‘Gloating’ | Hayley is a Ghost
Well said, Hayley Stevens.

HERE IS TODAY
Some perspective...

More to come (watch this space).



Back to blogging

Stuff. Lots of stuff. It's what I do. I've many interests, and too many ongoing projects — consequently some of them tend to get set aside. But despite my involvement with all the other stuff, at heart I consider myself a writer, and so the neglect of this blog has been an increasingly nagging discomfort.

I refuse, however, to be a hostage to my withdrawal symptoms. I knew I would get back to blogging on a more or less regular basis when I felt the time was right, and right now the time feels ... right.

So look out for some new — more frequent — bloggery in the coming months.


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